You’ve brought home one of those irresistible potted poinsettias or received one as a gift. How do you keep it beautiful through the holidays?
Today’s poinsettias can last longer than ever, often for months. To help yours stay pretty, follow this advice from Ron Wolford, creator of the Poinsettia Pages:
• Place your poinsettia in indirect light after bringing it home. Poinsettias need six hours of light daily (fluorescent light will work).
• Keep your plant away from cold windows, warm or cold drafts from furnaces or air conditioners, and open doors and windows.
• Poinsettias do best at daytime temperatures of 65 to 70 degrees. Higher temperatures will shorten the plant’s life.
• Check the soil daily. Punch holes in the pot’s foil cover so water can drain into a saucer. Water the plant when the soil is dry. Allow water to drain into the saucer and discard excess. Wilted plants will tend to drop bracts sooner.
• Don’t fertilize poinsettias while in bloom. If kept past the holiday season, apply a houseplant fertilizer once a month.
• New varieties of poinsettias last longer. It’s not uncommon for poinsettias to retain their bracts for several months.
For more tips, go to: http://urbanext.illinois.edu/ poinsettia/index.cfm
Key pointers on poinsettias
• The poinsettia, a tropical shrub, grows natively in Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs called it cuetlaxochitl or “star flower.” The red petals — actually bracts or modified leaves — were used for dye.
• Joel Poinsett, the first U.S. ambassador to Mexico, is credited with introducing the plant to this country in 1828. He raised the plants in his South Carolina greenhouse and gave them to friends. National Poinsettia Day is celebrated Dec. 12, the anniversary of Poinsett’s death.
• The red or otherwise colored bracts frame the plant’s actual flowers, which appear as yellow clusters at the center of the bracts. The plant drops its bracts and leaves soon after those flowers shed their pollen. For the longest-lasting poinsettias, choose plants with little or no yellow pollen showing.
• Contrary to popular belief, poinsettias are not poisonous to humans or pets.
• Poinsettias are not frost-tolerant. They will grow outdoors in temperate coastal climates, such as Southern California beach communities. In the ground, they can reach 10 feet tall.
• Paul Ecke Ranch (www.ecke.com) in San Diego County is the world’s leading poinsettia hybridizer.
Want a rebloom next year?
Poinsettias need at least 14 hours of complete darkness each night for six to 10 weeks to trigger bloom. If you manage to keep your potted poinsettia alive until next fall, you can trick it into bloom. Every night, place a lightproof bag over the plant or put it in a closet to force the bloom in time for Christmas.
Poinsettias: Year after Year
Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are popular winter houseplants because they flower in mid-winter, and because their beauty is the result of bracts (persistent colored leaves) instead of flowers, their attractiveness is long-lasting. They bloom naturally under the long night conditions of winter, so it is easy for nurseries to bring them into color in time for winter holidays. The beauty of poinsettias can persist from Thanksgiving through Christmas, and sometimes even to Valentine’s Day. Some gardeners are not satisfied with this long season of indoor beauty and attempt to save the plants to re-bloom the following winter. Poinsettias can be kept year after year, and they will bloom each year if you give them proper care.
When the leaves begin to yellow or when the plant is no longer desired as an ornamental, gradually withhold water. The leaves will pale and fall off. The bracts (colorful leaves just below the true flowers) will be the last to go. Figure 1 shows the parts of the plant. After all the leaves have fallen, store the plant, in its pot, in a cool (50 to 60°F), dry, dark area. Keep the plant somewhat on the dry side; water only enough to keep the stems from withering.
Figure 1. Parts of the poinsettia. The showy part, usually considered the flower, consists of the colored bracts.
In April or May, bring the plant out of storage. Cut the main stems six inches above soil level. Remove the plant from the pot and gently wash the old soil from the roots. Repot the plant in fresh potting soil that has good drainage. Poinsettias are susceptible to stem and root diseases if the soil is heavy and retains excess moisture. Soak the soil well, and then allow all excess water to drain away. Place the plant in a warm, sunny spot for renewed growth. Keep the humidity high to encourage rapid new growth. Once the plant is growing actively, apply a weak fertilizer solution (one tablespoon of a soluble fertilizer, such as 20-20-20 or its equivalent, per gallon of water) at monthly intervals.
After frost danger is past, sink the pot into a protected and sunny bed. Light shade is ideal during the hottest part of the day. Lift the pot occasionally to prevent root growth into surrounding soil. If the plant becomes root bound, repot it into a larger pot. Watch for insects and control them promptly.
Keep the poinsettia plant actively growing all summer by watering and fertilizing regularly. When the top of the soil feels dry, liberally apply water to moisten the soil completely, and allow the excess to drain away. Add no more water until the top of the soil is dry again.
To obtain a bushy plant, pinch the tips of new shoots back leaving at least two nodes on each new shoot (Figure 2). Continue pinching new shoots until late August. Remove weak stems completely, so only a few of the stronger ones develop.
Figure 2. To create a bushy plant, poinsettias are “pinched back.” The tip of each twig is removed (pinched) so that nodes remain. The new shoots that arise from the nodes are also pinched.
If more plants are desired, try propagating poinsettias from stem cuttings taken in place of pinchings. When the new growth is 8 to 12 inches high, cut off 4 to 6 inches for rooting (Figure 3). Leave at least two leaves on both the cuttings and the parent stem so the plant can continue to produce food. Cut in the morning, and place the cut stem in tepid water for one hour to stop the “bleeding.” Treat the base of cuttings with rooting hormone to increase the chances for success. Place cuttings in a well-drained, moist rooting medium, such as a half perlite, half peat moss mix. Keep humidity high for rapid rooting. Place cuttings in bright, but not direct, light. Pot the newly rooted cuttings in a well-drained soil when the new roots are about 1/2 inch long. Care of these plants is the same as care for the parent plant.
Figure 3. Poinsettia softwood cuttings, 4 to 6 inches long.
The parent plant and all rooted cuttings will bloom at the same time. The thicker cuttings will produce larger blooms. Make as many cuttings as desired until late August, but remember, only strong stems produce strong plants.
As cool fall weather begins, take the plant inside to a south window with full sun. Poinsettias do best in full fall sun and the bracts (colored leaves below the flowers) obtain their deepest color in good light. Ventilation is important, but keep the plant away from drafts. Drafts, as well as low temperatures, waterlogged soil, and drought, can cause the lower leaves of the poinsettia to turn yellow and fall from the plant. Night temperatures of 60 to 65°F and day temperatures up to 75°F are recommended. If the night temperature is too high or too low, the plant is likely to flower later.
The poinsettia is known as a true short-day (or long-night) plant. This means that the plant must be in total darkness for about 14 hours out of every day for a four-week period to form flower buds. Beginning in late September or early October, make certain the poinsettia receives no artificial light after nightfall. Even brief periods of light from a single light bulb for one night may be enough to delay or interfere with flowering. If possible, keep the plant in a room without lights, in a dark closet, or under a fully light-proof cover from about 5:00 p.m. to 7:00 a.m. every day for four weeks.
Remember to put the plant in a sunny window in the daytime, and drench the soil when the surface is dry. It will probably need watering less often now. Continue fertilizing it monthly until mid-December. The opened flowers last longest at about 65°F.
To find more resources for your business, home, or family, visit the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences on the World Wide Web at aces.nmsu.edu.
Contents of publications may be freely reproduced for educational purposes. All other rights reserved. For permission to use publications for other purposes, contact [email protected] or the authors listed on the publication.
New Mexico State University is an equal opportunity/affirmative action employer and educator. NMSU and the U.S. Department of Agriculture cooperating.
Revised and electronically distributed December 2009, Las Cruces, NM.
Poinsettias are relatively easy to keep in good condition for two or three months but with a little know-how and skill, it’s also possible to keep these festive plants for another year and bring them into flower again. So here’s how to care for your ponsettia.
The true poinsettia flowers are small, greenish-yellow and clustered together in the centre of the rosette of brightly coloured bracts.
These showy, leaf-like bracts come in red, shades of salmon-pink and creamy-white, so there’s one to suit every taste.
How to rebloom poinsettias
To restore healthy green plants into their original show-stopping colour in time for Christmas you need to keep plants in total darkness, for 14 hours each day for up to eight weeks to trick them into thinking winter has come early.
Start the process in early Autumn and be aware that even a nightlight or the glow of a street lamp can disrupt the transformation process.
During the day, plants need bright light and will thrive throughout the winter if kept on a warm windowsill.
Avoid putting them close to windows that are glazed with frosted glass though, as these can magnify sunlight and scorch leaves leading to brown sunken patches.
It’s also important to take plants off windowsills at night.
If poinsettias are left trapped behind the curtains then they may become frosted.
Leaves curling, drooping and falling usually means they have suffered low temperatures or sudden draughts.
Marks and Spencer
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How to care for your poinsettias
Poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) are native to Mexico and in the wild grow into tall shrubs and to turn them into compact houseplants, growers treat them with dwarfing hormones.
Over time the hormones are leached from the compost, so some judicial pruning will be necessary to restrict growth.
The leaves will naturally drop off around March time, which is when you can re-shape and cut back straggly plants down to about 10cm.
Be aware that poinsettias weep a toxic, sticky milky sap when cut or damaged, so smear wounds with white petroleum jelly to stop them ‘bleeding’ to death.
A healthy plant will re-sprout leaves a couple of months later, so keep the soil fairly dry, and the plant warm until new growth occurs.
How to water poinsettias
Plants will deteriorate if overwatered, causing the leaves to yellow and fall off after wilting.
A combination of high temperatures and dry air can have a similar effect so to help them to survive in centrally heated rooms stand plants on a tray of moist pebbles to keep them cool.
Give tired, overwintered plants a boost in spring by feeding them every two weeks with a half-strength liquid fertiliser and then increase to every week when growth is in full swing during the summer.
Thompson & Morgan
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Pests that affect poinsettias
Happy, healthy houseplants are less vulnerable to pests and diseases but it’s always worth keeping your eyes peeled for symptoms, as pests are easy to ‘import’ from infected plants that you buy to add to your collection.
Common to poinsettias are red spider mites, which through sucking the plant’s sap cause the leaves to become pale and red-speckled. If plants are covered with the mites’ fine webs then the only solution is to dispose of them in the dustbin.
If you find woolly-coated pests clinging to plant leaves and stems then you might be able to remove them with a cotton bud soaked in methylated spirits – these sap-sucking pests are mealy bugs that will cause the leaves to pale and pucker.
Having been re-energized, perky bracts will start to show colour within weeks when given the ‘short day’ treatment and be ready to fill your home with the Christmas cheer for which these wonderful plants are known.
Marks and Spencer
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There are many reasons why poinsettia leaves can start dropping off. Photo: www.gardeningwithsurgicalprecision.com
I’ve received several emails recently from gardeners struggling with poinsettias (Euphorbia pulcherrima) whose lower leaves turn yellow and drop off, often within days of purchase. Yet the poinsettia, while not necessarily the easiest houseplant of all, has the reputation of being able to “hold on” for at least a month or two if given reasonable care. Why then is yours losing its leaves so soon after you bought it?
A Symptom of Stress
Leaf drop in the poinsettia is a symptom of stress. The plant is not happy and shows its displeasure by dropping leaves. Usually, it’s the lower leaves that are sacrificed first. They turn yellow and off they fall. Then, if the cause of stress isn’t corrected, the leaf drop will gradually progress up the plant until it appears nearly naked, with only the colored bracts and a few green leaves on the top.
So much for the symptoms, but what causes this stress? Here are 10 possibilities.
Problem #1: The plant was exposed to cold
In most areas, Christmas is the coldest time of the year, so when you purchase a poinsettia, just bringing it back from the store can stress it severely. Even a few minutes of exposure to temperatures below 10°C can cause leaves or bracts to fall off.
Solution: Always insist the salesperson carefully bag your poinsettia before you leave the store. And don’t place a poinsettia on a frozen seat in an icy car, but instead heat your car in advance.
Problem #2: It has been kept wrapped too long
Poinsettias give off a toxic gas called ethylene. In the open, this gas diffuses rapidly and causes no harm. But if you keep your plant inside a closed plant sleeve for a few days, the concentration increases and leaves and bracts will begin to fall.
Solution: Remove the poinsettia from its wrapping as soon as you get home. If you intend to wrap your poinsettia as a gift, do so just before you need it, not days ahead.
Problem #3: Carbon monoxide exposure
The poinsettia is the canary in the coalmine of houseplants when it comes to carbon monoxide (CO), an odorless, tasteless toxic gas, reacting well before humans show the slightest symptom. If your plant starts to lose its leaves practically as soon as you bring it into your home, the level of carbon monoxide in your home may be too high.
Solution: Check the level of carbon monoxide in your home using a carbon monoxide alarm. If it goes off, leave your home immediately and call 9-1-1.
Problem #4: The air is too dry
Poinsettias tolerate dry air relatively well, especially compared to so many other indoor plants, but there is a limit. When the air is exceptionally dry, remaining at less than 30% almost all the time, the leaves begin to drop off, often browning at the margins or at the tip before they fall. If the soil dries out very quickly after a good watering, say in only 2 or 3 days, that’s another symptom that the air is very dry.
Solution: Increase the humidity using a humidifier or place the plant on a humidifying tray.
Problem #5: Insufficient water
Lack of water.
When you find your poinsettia wilting, with all its the leaves and bracts hanging limply like lettuce in the sun, and its soil is dry to the touch, it’s pretty obvious that it lacked water. Usually the foliage will recover its turgidity after a thorough watering, but… a few days later, the lower leaves begin to turn yellow and drop off. Do note that this leaf loss due to a lack of water is not necessarily your fault. The stress may have occurred in the store before you bought the plant, then, when you buy an apparently healthy poinsettia, leaf drop sets in a few days later. Note that box stores and supermarkets, especially, are not known for their proper maintenance of the plants they sell.
Solution: Water any poinsettia whose soil is dry to the touch and whose leaves have wilted to at least save it. Once it has recovered, learn how to water your poinsettia properly so it won’t happen again. Whenever the soil is dry to the touch, water deeply, enough so that the excess water flows into the saucer. Just to make sure the plant really did get enough water, even let the plant soak in the excess water for 15 to 20 minutes, then empty the saucer.
It’s important to understand that you can’t force a poinsettia to adapt to a specific watering schedule. The typical “I water once a week” method can never be counted on. At some point, you’ll almost always end up under- or overwatering the plant, depending on the conditions. This is because the same plant may well find a weekly watering quite adequate if it’s gray outside and fairly cool indoors, but then can wilt terribly the following week because it’s suddenly sunny and the window ledge became extra hot. And yet a week later, when the weather is exceptionally gray and cool, the potting mix might still be almost soaking wet a full week after the plant was watered. If watering needs vary so widely, it’s because indoor conditions change constantly.
Ideally you should check the soil every 3 or 4 days, pressing your index finger into the soil up to the 2nd joint: if the soil is dry, water well. If it is still wet, come back 3 or 4 days later and check again, watering only when needed. That is the key to successful watering almost any plant, not just the poinsettia! You may well find that the same plant can sometimes need watering after only 4 days under some circumstances and, at other times, only after 10 or 12 days.
Finally, note that mini-poinsettias, which are actually young cuttings grown in small pots and forced for early flowering, are especially susceptible to underwatering. Their tiny pots dry out quickly and it is best to check their growing mix every two days.
Problem #6: The plant was overwatered
Here overwatering has caused rot to set in.
It seems illogical, but a poinsettia will react the same way when it’s overwatered as when it’s underwatered: the foliage wilts and drops off. Why? If the potting mix remains overly wet for a long time, the roots begin to rot due to the lack of oxygen and when this happens, the foliage wilts, despite the abundance of water, since the roots are no longer there to absorb it.
Solution: It’s not easy to recuperate a poinsettia whose roots have begun to rot, because rot is a disease (Pythium) that spreads from dead or dying roots to living ones. It is probably best to simply replace any poinsettia suffering from rot.
Problem #7: It’s too hot or too cold in the room where you keep your poinsettia.
And an unhappy poinsettia will start to lose its leaves.
Solution: The ideal temperature for a poinsettia is between 60 and 75˚C (15 and 24˚C). If it is colder or warmer than that, especially over a long period, it’s best to move it to a spot more suitable to its needs
Problem #8: Lack of light
Poinsettias really need bright light with at least some direct sun.
This problem is usually seen only in the long run, because a poinsettia can usually take 7 or 8 weeks in the shade or partial shade before reacting negatively and starting to lose its lower leaves. That’s why you can use a poinsettia almost anywhere in the home over the holidays, even in a dark corner. But if you want your poinsettia to remain in good condition until spring, it will need good light.
Solution: After Christmas, place your poinsettia in a spot where it will receive adequate lighting, including at least a few hours of sun a day, such as near a sunny window.
Problem #9: Insect infestation
Whiteflies, small sucking insects found underneath the leaves.
Whiteflies love poinsettias, piercing the leaves to lap up their sap, thus causing their foliage to slowly turn yellow and then drop off. Spider mites, mealybugs and scale are other sap-sucking insects that also sometimes infest poinsettias and give similar results.
Solution: Usually, the plant was already infested in the store, so the first solution is of course to carefully inspect the plant before you buy it. Look especially under the leaves and at leaf axils, as that is where pests often hide. Different treatments, including sprays with insecticidal soap, neem oil, horticultural oil, rubbing alcohol, etc., can be used to control the invaders. And keep the plant isolated from your other houseplants so the infestation won’t spread.
Problem #10: Aging leaves
It is perfectly normal for a poinsettia to lose a leaf or two from time to time. That’s its way of getting rid of older, less functional leaves.
Solution: Just pick up the dead leaves!
Poinsettias Really Aren’t That Difficult
I hope the above list of problems and solutions didn’t scare you off, because, in fact, the majority of people who water their poinsettia correctly have no problem keeping it in good condition for at least a month or two. And those who, in addition, make sure it give it adequate light can even expect it to hold onto its beautiful bracts until May or even June for a full 6 months of beauty!
As for how to get your poinsettia to bloom again, an entirely different subject, here are some tips.
No, the poinsettia isn’t difficult to maintain, but like any plant, it still needs at least a bit of basic care to be happy. Give it what it needs and your poinsettia will repay you in spades!
Poinsettia Plants are members of the Euphorbia family and like to have their soil dry out a bit before they are watered. Always allow at least the top 50% of the soil to dry out before watering to prevent root rot. Over-watering a Poinsettia Plant causes green leaves to fall off, leaving the bare stems topped by a few colorful bracts that you seem to have. Wait until the plant leaves get a little soft and droopy before watering. Severe under-watering, in which a Poinsettia Plant badly droops, results in both green and colored leaves dropping off. Be careful not to get the leaves of a Poinsettia Plant wet when watering. Water drops cause unsightly white marks on Poinsettia leaves. Here’s a few more tips to help your poinsettias last longer and look better.
Poinsettias need very bright indirect light but no direct sun. The light from a north-facing window is not adequate. If you place your plant close to a window, be sure none of the leaves touch the glass since the cold damages poinsettias.
Poinsettias like temperature between 65-70 degrees during the day and about 60 degrees at night. Temperatures that are too hot or too cold damage the leaves and can also cause leaf drop. Keep Poinsettias away from drafty doors and windows, fireplaces, heaters, and the tops of appliances that give off heat.
Poinsettias, despite all rumors, are not poisonous, though the milky sap of the plant may cause minor skin irritations, especially for people who are allergic to latex.
Shriveled Poinsettia Plant: Fixing Poinsettia With Shriveled Leaves
Poinsettia plants echo the colors and spirit of the winter holiday season. Strangely, they are brought into the home when snow and ice are at their peak, but they are actually native to hot, dry areas of Mexico. In the home, they require temperatures between 60 and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (15-21 C) and cannot tolerate drafts or cold temperatures. In most cases, if your leaves on poinsettia shriveled and fell off, the cause is cultural or environmental, but occasionally it can be a serious fungal disease or pest infestation.
The very act of carrying in your new poinsettia plant during the winter months can cause it to have foliar problems. Poinsettia leaves shrivel and die in incorrect temperatures. These cold sensitive plants do not tolerate fluctuations in temperature and respond by shriveling and dropping leaves. Treating a shriveling poinsettia starts with diagnosis of the problem, and then methodical treatment measures and patience.
Diagnosing a Poinsettia with Shriveled Leaves
Cold damage, under watering and changes in other site conditions will shock the plant, and poinsettia leaves shrivel and die. In most cases, correcting the conditions and waiting for a while will return the plant back to health.
Fungal disease issues, however, may require the complete removal of the plant. These form in warm, moist conditions and may be harbored in the soil, borne in the air or simply have come with the plant from the nursery. Removal of infected plant debris is the first defense followed by repotting in uninfected soil.
To identify the exact type of disease, you will need a diagnostic of the common causes of a shriveled poinsettia plant.
Fungal Causes of a Poinsettia with Shriveled Leaves
Fungal diseases can attack the foliage, stems and roots of a plant.
- Where stems are dark and discolored followed by foliage damage, Rhizoctonia may be the problem.
- Water soaked foliage that eventually curls and dies may be the result of Rhizopus, a fungus that also attacks the stems and bracts.
- Scab or spot anthracnose starts with lesions on the foliage followed by curled leaves that succumb and die.
There are many other fungal diseases that can result in leaves on poinsettia shriveled and dying. The important thing to remember is the conditions which cause these fungi to thrive. Crowded plants with little air circulation, overly wet soil, overhead watering and warm moist temperatures encourage spore growth and formation.
Treating a Shriveled Poinsettia
Once you are fairly certain if the causes of your shriveled poinsettia plant are cultural, environmental or disease related, adjust your method of care to encourage better growth.
- The plant’s need sunny, well lit areas with warm temperatures. Keep the plant away from extremes such as cold drafty windows or hot heat registers.
- Water only from the base of the plant when the soil feels dry to the touch and don’t allow the roots to sit in stagnant water.
- Remove any dropped leaves immediately so possible fungal issues do not spread.
- Fertilize every 2 weeks with a diluted liquid fertilizer.
- Use a fungicidal soil drench in extremely infected plants. If all else fails and the plant doesn’t recover, discard it and disinfect the area it was kept in to prevent spreading the fungus to other indoor plants.
Poinsettias – Care, Maintenance and Re-Blooming
Poinsettia, also known as the Christmas plant, remains one of the most popular holiday flowers. With the introduction of long-lasting cultivars, the popularity of the poinsettia has increased significantly. It was introduced to the United States in 1825 by Joel Robert Poinsett, first U. S. ambassador to Mexico who obtained plants from the wilds of southern Mexico.
Pesche’s carries several series of cultivars offering a variety of bract colors:
Peterstar Red – bright red flower bracts
Peterstar Pink – dark pink bracts
Cortez Burgundy – dark red-colored flower bracts
Glitter – bicolored red with pink splotched bracts,
Marble – bicolored pink and creamy white bracts
Pink Peppermint – peppermint colored bracts
Ruby Frost – variegated red and white bract color
Snowcap – creamy white flower bracts,
Turquoise Blue – white bracts customed dyed blue
Purple – white bracts customed dyed purple
SELECTING YOUR POINSETTIA
Select plants with large, brightly colored bracts (red, pink, white or bicolor pink and white) that are not wilted, broken, or damaged, and a full complement of rich, dark green leaves. Healthy leaves should be present even at the base of the plant. The true flowers are the yellowish button-like structures in the center of the bracts. Bracts normally do not last for long periods after the true flowers.
POINSETTIA CARE AND MAINTENANCE
The proper care for your poinsettia begins the moment you walk out of the store. Your poinsettia will be wrapped in a sleeve to protect it from cold and windy weather because exposure to low temperatures even for a few minutes can damage the bracts and leaves. Unwrap your poinsettia as soon as you get home because the petioles (stems of the leaves and bracts) can droop and twist if the plant is left wrapped for too long..
Poinsettias are tropical plants, so when searching for the perfect location, look for warmth and at least six hours of indirect sunlight daily. Do not let any part of the plant touch the cold window since this could injure the plant.
Maintain a daytime temperature between 65 and 75 degrees Fahrenheit and nighttime temperature between 60 and 65 degrees Fahrenheit to extend the blooming time. Poinsettias do not tolerate warm or cold drafts which may cause premature leaf drop, so keep them away from radiators, air vents, and fans as well as open windows or doors. High temperatures will shorten the file of the bracts. Don’t expose your poinsettia to temperatures below 50 degrees.
Water / Fertilizing
Examine the soil before watering your poinsettia each day. Water only if surface is dry to the touch. Over watering will make the leaves turn yellowish in color and fall off, while under watering will cause the plant to wilt and lose its leaves. Use enough water so that it drains out the bottom of the pot, but remove the excess water from the tray or soil around the pot. Do not leave the plant standing in water. Overly wet soil lacks sufficient air, resulting in root injury. By following these simple steps, you can ensure your poinsettia will brighten your home all holiday season. If you keep your plant for several months past the holiday season, apply an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer, once or twice a month according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Do not fertilize when it is blooming.
RE-BLOOMING YOUR POINSETTIA
One of the most common questions after Christmas is “How can I care for my poinsettia so that it will bloom again next Christmas?” This process may seem rather overwhelming at ﬁrst, but it is rather easy and rewarding. Use the following schedule.
Late Winter and Early Spring Care
January – April: Keep watering the poinsettia whenever the surface is dry. Fertilize as needed every 2 weeks with an all-purpose houseplant fertilizer at recommended rates. During this time, side shoots will develop below the bracts and grow up above the old flowering stems. In early March in order to have a well-shaped plant for the following year, you need to cut each of the old flowering stems or branches back to 4 to 6 inches in height. Leave one to three leaves on each of the old stems or branches. New growth will come from the buds located in the leaf axils. Cutting the plant back will cause the buds to grow and develop. Keep the plant in a sunny window at a temperature between 60 and 70 degrees fahrenheit. Check your plant for signs of insects such as whitefly. If present, use Sticky Whitefly Traps and/or Insecticidal Soap. Remove faded and dried parts of the plant. Add more soil, preferably a commercially available sterile soil mix. Starting April 1st, gradually decrease water, allowing the plant to get dry between waterings. Be careful the stem does not begin to shrivel. This is a sign the plant is too stressed and is dying. In a week or two, when the plant has acclimated to this drying process, move it to a cool spot like the basement or a heated garage. You want to keep it at about 60 degrees fahrenheit.
Late Spring and Summer Care
May: Cut back stems to 4–6 inches above the soil. Repot in a slightly larger container, with new potting soil using Pesche’s Potting & Planting Mix. Water well. Place the newly potted plant back into the brightest window you have and once again keep it at a temperature of 65 – 75 degrees fahrenheit. Continue watering whenever the surface of the soil feels dry.
Watch for new growth. Once new growth appears, begin fertilizing every two weeks with a complete fertilizer.
June: After the danger of spring frost is past and night temperatures exceed 50 degrees fahrenheit, move the plant outdoors in a slightly shaded spot. Remember that the plant may need to be watered more frequently than the rest of your garden. Fertilize more frequently as plant grows. Trim off two to three inches of branches to promote side branching.
July: Pinch back each stem by about one inch. This is to encourage a stout, well branched plant. If left unpinched, the poinsettia will grow tall and spindly. Move it into full sun. Continue to water and fertilize but increase the amount to accelerate growth.
August 15: The stems should have branched and leafed out. Once again, pinch or cut the new stems, leaving 3-4 leaves on each shoot. Continue watering and fertilizing.
Fall Care and Re-blooming Phase
To re-flower your poinsettia, you must keep the plant in complete darkness between 5pm and 8am daily from the end of September until color shows in the bracts (early to mid-December). The temperature should remain between 60 and 70 degrees F. Night temperatures above 70 to 75 degrees fahrenheit may delay or prevent flowering. If you follow this procedure the poinsettia will flower for Christmas.
September: Bring the poinsettia indoors to a sunny location that gets at least six hours of direct light daily, preferably more where the temperature is 65 to 75°F. Continue watering and reduce the amount of fertilizer. Don’t prune your plant later than September 1st. Starting on or near September 21st (Autumnal Equinox) for about 10 weeks, give the plant 13 hours of uninterrupted darkness (put the plant in a closet, basement, or under a box) and 11 hours of bright light each day. Maintain night temperatures in the low 60 degree °F range. Continue to water and fertilize. Rotate the plant daily to give all sides even light.
October 1: Poinsettias are short-day plants, for a mid-December bloom date, your poinsettia needs complete darkness for 15 continuous hours each night (5pm to 8am). You can either move your plant into a dark room, or cover it in a large opaque box. Any exposure to stray light of any kind could delay the flowering process. Many people place their plants in a closest, but if light gets in through the cracks or if you open and use the closet, it will affect the bud set. During this time, it is also crucial that your plant gets 7 to 9 hours (from 8am to 5 pm) of bright sunlight daily, so when bringing your plant out of the darkness, choose a sunny spot for it to live. Water as needed and fertilize weekly until bract color develops.
Once color is visible, around the last week of November (Thanksgiving), discontinue the short day/long night treatment. Put the plant in a sunny area that gets at least six hours of direct light. Reduce water and fertilizer. You should see flower buds at this point
Stop fertilizing about December 15th. Keep watering and treat your plant the way you did when you first brought it home in bloom. If all has gone well, it should be back in bloom and ready to begin the process all over again.
CHRISTMAS–Enjoy your “new” poinsettia. Start the cycle all over again.
Poinsettias have been accused of being toxic, however laboratory studies have shown that the leaves, stems, bracts, and ﬂowers are not toxic to people or pets. According to the American Medical Association’s Handbook of Poisonous and Injurious Plants, other than occasional cases of vomiting, ingestion of the poinsettia plant has been found to produce no ill effects. The Society of American Florists in conjunction the Ohio State University academic faculty of entomology thoroughly tested all parts of the poinsettia and conclusively established that there were no adverse effects. In 1975, the United States Consumer Product Safety Commission denied a petition to require warning labels for poinsettia plants.
As for your pets, the American Veterinary Medicine Association does not include poinsettias on its list of plants that are a threat to animals. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals states that ingestion of poinsettias may cause mild to moderate gastrointestinal tract irritation, which may include drooling, vomiting, and/or diarrhea — but nothing severe or fatal.
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